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Economy showing signs of strength

Sunday, November 30, 2003

There's ample discussion on the national stage about the economy these days. Seems that some folk believe our economy is headed toward the dumps while others see encouraging signs of a substantial economic boom. It truly makes you wonder if anyone really knows how to gauge our economy if you listen enough. How can so many "experts" view the same statistics and come to such different conclusions?

If you looked around Sikeston - or virtually any other town on Friday and Saturday - you'd think our economy is as strong as day-old coffee. Believe me, lots of dollars swapped hands during the past two days and that should bode well for local retailers banking on the Christmas holiday shopping season.

Despite these signs of an economic boom of sorts, there will always apparently remain a portion of the population lost in the swirl of money available in the marketplace. But that has less to do with the economy than it does with a whole host of other factors. When jobs are plentiful there will always remain some who are jobless. It does no good to debate why these people remain at the bottom of the economic ladder - you just accept the fact and move on.

Industrial production is at a record level, the jobless rate is down, interest rates for some products are at all-time lows and yet some are bypassed by all of these encouraging signs. And the media virtually without fail focuses attention on these "exceptions" and ignores the millions who are enjoying a lift from the economic boom.

The AFL-CIO gained national attention this week when they announced that some of their members would take a two-day furlough without pay to bring attention to the "weak" economy and the threat to labor unions that results. But this phony publicity stunt involved just 200 members of the million-plus member organization. So why all of the media attention? Well the answer should be obvious.

The Democratic presidential candidates are now switching their attack on the Bush administration in light of the strong economic news. If this trend continues well into the coming year, those candidates will be left holding the bag without an issue to ignite their voting base.

Here's something to ponder as well. A new report out this week gave much of the credit for the strong holiday economy to the tax rebates that hit the mailboxes of millions in recent months. If you put a few million extra dollars into the economy, those dollars will circulate time and time again. Friday's crowds in the stores proved some of that.

I, for one, believe this will be one of the strongest holiday spending seasons in recent history. All of the signs are there. That does not mean our economy is out of the woods by any means. But if the national media wants to put a negative spin in order to change the political climate, they're going to have to fire their ammunition at a different target. The economy will prove them wrong.

It's understandable to focus this time of year on those in need - on those who have missed the economic upturn and who still scramble daily to meet their financial needs. But there needs to be some fairness and balance in this discussion. And that means an equal focus on the millions who during the past two days have looked at their personal finances and decided to spend the dollars for the holidays. Their story is often lost on the national stage. But standing in a long checkout lane at any store will illustrate that this season, the "shopper" is winning the battle. That's where our focus should be.



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